Chinese airlines offer unlimited flights to revive industry

BEIJING: China Southern on Tuesday (Jul 28) became the latest Chinese airline to offer ultra-cheap, all-you-can-fly deals aimed at reigniting air travel following coronavirus lockdowns.

At least eight Chinese carriers have so far launched similar schemes which they hope will boost the ailing domestic aviation sector in the world’s second-largest economy.

Lucky Air, which unveiled offers for unlimited domestic flights on Jul 13, announced two days later that it had hit capacity for monthly and seasonal passes for individuals.

The deals, valid for anything between a month and a year, start at 1,588 yuan (US$227) for unlimited flights over 31 days per person.

Lucky Air said it has plans to sell more of such packages in the future.

Airlines offer variations of such deals, including Spring Airlines’ package for children travelling with their parents and China Eastern’s unlimited weekend flights.

Southern’s all-you-can-fly deal costs 3,699 yuan (US$528) and can be used until next January.

Some carriers have chosen to join hands, with Qingdao Airlines, Okay Airways and Ruili Airlines collaborating for unlimited weekend deals as well.

Others like Juneyao Air rolled out a 888 yuan (US$127) package for unlimited upgrades – allowing passengers to bump up their economy class tickets for no added cost.

China’s economy has been recovering gradually since the coronavirus outbreak, and last Friday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said daily flights had returned to about 80 per cent of pre-virus levels.

The country’s aviation industry lost 34.25 billion yuan (US$4.89 billion) in the second quarter this year, the CAAC said this month, after Beijing took drastic moves to curb the spread of the coronavirus that first surfaced in the central Wuhan city.

As the virus began its global march, governments around the world had started limiting travel from high-risk countries, with China going a step further in March to dramatically cut flight routes and bar most foreigners from returning.

In April, passenger trips were down 68.5 per cent on-year.